Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

New wife spending too much money?

DEAR NATALIE: My wife and I have been married for only a few months, and we never really talked much about finances. While we both work, I make a much larger income than she does. Well, we opened a joint account recently and I have noticed some pretty large bills coming into the house. I haven’t confronted her about them, yet, but I feel as though she thinks that since we are married, frivolous spending (like regular shopping sprees and outrageous lunch bills with friends) is acceptable. I want her to have fun, but I also don’t want to go broke. How do I remedy this?

-- FREAKING OUT ABOUT FINANCES

DEAR FREAKING OUT ABOUT FINANCES: They say there are two things that can break up a happy marriage. Money and family. Don’t let this get the better of your relationship. Ask her to sit down and look at your joint account together. Instead of admonishing her, which may come off as condescending, work on a budget together. Maybe was just overly excited about seeing a few extra zeros in that bank account and lost her mind for a minute. While I don’t condone her irresponsible behavior, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. If she wants to take her friends out for a fancy lunch or splurge on a new purse, that’s great, but she should either use her own money for that indulgence or work on a budget with you so that she can have a fun day out once in a while or treat herself to something without it wrecking your household budget. If she is just someone that isn’t good with money, then it gets a little trickier. There may be some deeper conversations that need to be had about savings, wanting to build a life together and recognizing that you are both in this together. Another way to deal with this would be to open a “fun money” account that you both can deposit a smaller amount in each month to be used for the occasional splurge, but when the money runs out each month, then it runs out. I’m always amazed at how little we teach kids about finances in school, considering these life skills carry (or don’t carry) with us throughout our adulthood. But the most important thing, no matter how awkward, is to keep an open dialogue about money because if you don’t communicate about these things, you could end up losing a lot more than just cash. You could lose your relationship, too.

DEAR NATALIE: My youngest sister is making a really big mistake. She is only 19 and her boyfriend is 21. He is in the military and about to leave for at least a year overseas. Of course, he had to propose. They have only been dating since January and I have only met the guy once. She is over-the-moon about this situation, but my family is not happy about it at all. They told her that they would only pay for the wedding after she graduates college. I am angry that she is doing this, but if I tell her how I feel, she is going to get mad and do something crazy (like elope). And, the other day she asked me to be a bridesmaid. How can I agree to this? She is too young! -- MARRIAGE CAN WAIT

DEAR MARRIAGE CAN WAIT: Aw, young love. I think we’ve all been there in one way or another. Maybe we didn’t take it as far as getting hitched to someone that was about to leave us, but I think if you close your eyes and look back at your life, there might be one time where you could feel the butterflies in your stomach from falling hard for someone. And now that her butterfly-inducing partner is leaving town, it doesn’t surprise me that they want to seal this deal. Is it the best idea? Oh, heck no. It’s a terrible idea. Most likely things will fall apart on their own. Long distance relationships are difficult enough when you are just in separate cities, not to mention in different time zones and long plane rides away. But I can guarantee, the more you tell her not the do this, the more likely she will go through with it. It’s like the Romeo and Juliet effect. But without the really depressing ending. Instead, play it cool. Say that “of course you would love to be a bridesmaid, but if you want to have a dream wedding, that takes time to plan.” Then offer to plan with her over the next year. This will give her time to let everything sink in. By next spring, the fires may have cooled and she may reconsider this relationship on her own. But if she doesn’t and they are still madly in love, then get behind her decision and support her. This is her life, after all, and she has to make her own choices.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Follow through is the most important part of networking. If you get business cards from new contacts and don’t reach out to the ones that you connected the best with, then what was the point? Don’t let the moment pass you by, make sure you reach out in a timely manner to show that you are serious about building a network.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)